SARATOGA SPRINGS — Every summer in this city, there’s a big race.
The stakes are high, and the winners stand to make a lot of money.
As for the losers, well, there’s always next year.
It’s not time yet for the Travers — although that’s a big race, too. This is a race to open an establishment in downtown Saratoga Springs in time for the summer meet at Saratoga Race Course, which drew a record 1.24 million ticket buyers last year.
That time has come — the gates on Union Avenue open Friday at 11 a.m.
“Obviously, if a million people are coming to town in the next 40 days, businesses that can cater to them want to be open as soon as possible,” said Todd Shimkus, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce. “Opening day has grown every year, and it’s a great place to be.”
Shimkus remembers Spa City Tap and Barrel on Caroline Street cutting it close when it opened in 2015.
“They literally had signs up when they opened the day before the track that said ‘wet paint,’ just absolutely scrambling to get open,” he said. “Kings Tavern was the same way.”
This year, as in years past, visitors to the track have a host of new places to go for food, drinks and good times — before and after they place their bets on the ponies. Shimkus noted an emphasis on craft beverages at many of the additions to the bar and restaurant scene.
“The specialty craft beverage industry has really just exploded on the scene,” he said.
Here’s a look at what’s new:
An aptly named bottle shop and bar — it truly is tiny — with a variety of craft beers in bottles, cans and on tap. It’s the second store location for August Rosa, who opened Brew on Lark Street in Albany in 2014.
17 Maple Ave.
Home to an outdoor beer garden, an indoor bar and restaurant, an old-school game room with ice hockey, Ms. Pacman and more, and a dancing room. Owner Hilary Morrison brings a background in stirring up cocktails in Los Angeles to the table. The menu includes Frosé, a frozen version of the now-trending rosé wine.
35 Maple Ave.
It’s been open for brunch and lunch, but on Thursday this restaurant extended its hours, adding a happy-four-hours from 4 to 8 p.m. — yes, in time for track season. The outdoor courtyard is one of three places to dine. Menu items include french toast stuffed with banana puree and drizzled in Vermont maple syrup, breakfast bruschetta made with honey goat cheese, and sides like sticky bacon and sweet potato tots.
Replacing The Crown Grill on Broadway, this restaurant offers a combination of American fare and Italian pastas while serving eight New York state craft beers on tap. It’s owned by Scott Brankman and Emily Farnsworth-Brankman, who closed their Marblehead, Massachusetts, restaurant of nine years to make the move and be closer to family.
New at Hattie’s
45 Phila St.
Hattie’s Restaurant isn’t new — it’s been around since 1938 — but its raw bar, and outdoor bar, are. Customers can now place their order with the shucker, watch their clams and oysters get prepped and pay on the spot.
One hotel opens, another awaits
The Homewood Suites opened this summer at 3368 S. Broadway, adding more than 100 suites to the city’s lodging options.
Meanwhile, the historic Adelphi Hotel at 365 Broadway — which has been undergoing a $30 million renovation over the past five years — is projected to open sometime this summer, just not in time for opening day.
The hotel will have 32 rooms, including 12 large suites, outdoor cafes and a public restaurant. The place had 150 much-smaller rooms when it was built in 1877.
“It’s going to be a destination unto itself,” Shimkus said.